Hate crimes targeting Muslims increased 91% in the first half of 2017


Hate crimes targeting Muslims increased 91% in the first half of 2017

Prosecutors secured a relatively rare federal hate crime conviction punishable by a tough sentence on Thursday as a Florida man pleaded guilty to leaving a voicemail that threatened to shoot people at a mosque. Legal experts and Islamic advocates said it sends an important message at a time of tension for American Muslims.

Prosecutors previously said Wallace admitted leaving similar threatening messages at other mosques. The charge was upgraded to a hate crime from a lesser offense punishable by up to five years in prison.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations estimates that hate crimes targeting Muslims increased 91 percent in the first half of 2017 compared with the same period last year. Federal data from past years suggests most hate crimes aren’t reported, few are prosecuted, and only a fraction of these result in convictions.

“We welcome any kind of hate crime charge in a case like this when there’s clearly an indication of victims being targeted because of their faith or ethnicity or national origin,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a national spokesman for the advocacy group. “If it is indeed an effort to show the Department of Justice will apply the law equally and will target those who attack the Muslim community, I think it’s a good message to send at a time of rising Islamophobia,” Hooper said.

Former federal prosecutor David S. Weinstein said the conviction sends a message that the Justice Department is taking such threats seriously. He notes that hate crimes are difficult to prove because they often turn on the strength of any evidence of a defendant’s motivation.

According to court documents, the message Wallace left at the mosque used profanity against Islam, the prophet Muhammad and the Quran and also made the shooting threats.

“l hate you Muslims. l hate you people. l’m gonna go down to your center, I’m gonna’ shoot all ya’ll,” the message said, according to the documents. His conviction comes as President Donald Trump’s administration defends itself in court against accusations that it’s unfairly singling out Muslims with its travel ban proposals. The administration, led by the Justice Department, has argued that these bans are aimed at protecting Americans from terrorism. The Justice Department will not tolerate threats of hate violence…

Continue reading at: The Associated Press

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